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What Are the Symptoms of a Broken Cheekbone?

Alex Tree
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Some symptoms of a broken cheekbone are a visible bone, flat cheek, and pain. In cases of severe facial injury, the bone is sometimes visibly broken and seen through the skin. Even if the broken bone is not visible, some people experience a flat or lopsided cheek. Most people with broken cheekbones also experience pain, swelling, and bruising of the face. In addition, sometimes the injury is not limited to the cheekbone, but affects facial features around the cheekbone, like the eyes.

All broken bones fall into two categories: open fractures and closed fractures. The vast majority of broken bones are closed fractures, because the bone is broken but does not poke through the skin. Some fractures are open fractures, in which the bone lacerates the skin or the skin was damaged by the cause of the broken cheekbone. In many cases of open fractures, it is obvious at a glance that the cheekbone is broken. Although all broken bones should be brought to the attention of a doctor, open fractures have a greater chance of becoming infected and are generally considered emergencies.

Another tell-tale sign of a broken cheekbone is a flat cheek, because the bone has moved out of position. When the bone is broken, the cheek is no longer held up properly. Sometimes the cheek appears lopsided or droopy instead of simply flat. A flat cheek is usually not permanent and can be fixed by having a medical professional reposition the broken bone. This involves surgery wherein the surgeon places a plate and screws in the patient’s cheek to secure it.

Not all fractured cheekbones are obvious, however; if the bone is still in place, the cheekbone might look perfectly normal. Pain, swelling, and bruising of the cheekbone may be symptoms of a broken bone. These symptoms are mostly universal, unless a person cannot feel his or her face due to shock or other medical reasons, like damaged nerves. The pain, swelling, and bruising should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.

In some cases, a broken cheekbone affects the position of a person’s eye. If the floor of the eye is damaged, the eye might no longer be held up properly and therefore sinks into the person’s face. This is usually accompanied by blood from the damaged socket. The person’s vision might also be affected by the wound; for example, double vision or blurry vision have been reported.

How Do You Diagnose a Broken Cheekbone?

If you recently suffered trauma to the face, you should examine your injuries carefully to determine their severity. A minor bruise or scar may not require treatment, but a fracture can lead to serious problems, such as permanent damage to your physical health or appearance.

To diagnose a broken cheekbone, compare the known symptoms to your condition. You will want to examine the outward appearance of your injury and take note of the physical sensations you experience when moving your face, keeping it at rest, or touching it with your hand. 

Below are some of the symptoms you should look out for when diagnosing a possible cheekbone fracture:

  • Flatness of the cheek
  • Swollen upper cheek
  • Blood in the affected eye
  • Altered sensation underneath the eye on the affected side
  • Vision problems
  • Pain following jaw movement

If you exhibit one or more of these symptoms, contact a local health provider.

When Should You Contact a Physician?

Try to contact a doctor immediately after receiving an injury to the face. A minor trauma might result in small bruises or lacerations. Many facial fractures heal on their own within three to six weeks and do not require significant medical intervention.

However, a serious injury can potentially have significant ramifications on your health. If it’s not possible to receive medical treatment right away, or you believe you only have slight injuries, make sure to review your symptoms before contacting a professional.

Sometimes, the symptoms of a facial fracture do not appear right away, which might also lead you to unintentionally forgo immediate medical treatment. If you experience any trauma to the face, address the condition as quickly as possible by reaching out to a doctor.

How Do Medical Professionals Treat a Broken Cheekbone?

Before determining treatment plans, doctors will look into the exact details of the trauma, such as diagnosing any bone fragments, lacerations, or contortions. If your broken cheekbone requires acute treatment, you will probably receive treatment in two stages. 

The first stage puts your cheekbone back in its natural position through a treatment known as reducing. If a reduction is necessary, it may not be possible to undergo this treatment immediately.. Many patients must wait several days for the swelling to reduce before a reduction can be done. 

Physicians call the second stage of the treatment fixing. Once your bones are back in place, they need to stay in that position as they heal. A physician may use plates, screws, wires, or other devices to immobilize the bones. This process ensures that everything heals in place and that you do not experience further injuries.

After treatment, it can take around six weeks until you’re fully healed. Expect to experience some bruising, swelling, and discomfort initially as your body goes through the healing process. While facial numbness is a rare side effect of a broken cheekbone, such facial injuries can occasionally cause nerve damage.

Is a Broken Cheekbone a Serious Problem?

Whether a broken cheekbone causes serious problems depends on the nature of your injury, the strength of your bones, your age, and overall health status. Some complex fractures may cause irreversible damage and even prove life-threatening

In children, broken cheekbones generally heal quickly and rarely pose a serious problem. However, complex fractures or fractures around the eye can be potentially dangerous and should be thoroughly evaluated by a doctor.

The bones in your face shield several important nerves, along with the muscles responsible for your facial expressions and eye movements. Because the cheekbone also helps keep the eye socket in place, a broken cheekbone can cause serious eye damage. In rare cases, blindness can arise from such facial trauma.

What Are the Causes of a Broken Cheekbone?

Cheekbones can fracture for several reasons. Sometimes, a physical attack can lead to facial injuries. Many emergency rooms treat patients with broken cheekbones who have experienced domestic violence, robbery, or other altercations. 

Other reasons for a broken cheekbone may be unintentional. Athletes, for example, may also suffer fractures to the face due to accidents, falls, or improper equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a fractured cheekbone?

A form of facial fracture called a fractured cheekbone occurs in the center of the face, immediately below the eye socket. The disorder is often brought on by facial trauma, such as that sustained in a sports injury, automobile accident, fall, or physical attack. A shattered cheekbone may cause discomfort, bruising, swelling, and changes to the way your face looks.

What are the signs and symptoms of a fractured cheekbone?

Pain, discomfort, swelling, bruising, numbness, trouble moving the jaw or mouth, and changes in the facial contour are all potential indications of a broken cheekbone. Moreover, some individuals may feel queasy, nauseous, or have double vision.

How is a fractured cheekbone diagnosed?

In most cases, a physical examination plus imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans are used to detect a broken cheekbone. A medical professional will look for soreness, edema, and other indications of face damage during the physical examination. Imaging tests support treatment choices by determining the severity of the fracture.

What are the treatment options for a fractured cheekbone?

A broken cheekbone is often treated by controlling discomfort, reducing swelling, and stabilizing the fracture. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen are examples of over-the-counter drugs that may be used to treat pain. Using cold packs and keeping the head elevated may also help to minimize swelling. A splint or cast may be used to support the fracture. Surgery could be necessary for more severe circumstances.

How long does it take for a fractured cheekbone to heal?

The length of time it takes to heal a broken cheekbone depends on how severe the fracture is and the method of treatment. Recovery may take several weeks to several months, during which time it is crucial to comply with the doctor's instructions and take any medicine that has been recommended. It's crucial to stay away from activities that can possibly hurt the injured region in order to avoid future damage.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon997496 — On Jan 17, 2017

Attn Anon 6. I believe I have a fracture too, and I didn't go to the doctor like I should have, either. It's been about two months now for me.

My cheek is still a bit swollen and it almost feels like there is maybe a piece of bone floating underneath my skin. It still aches and seems to irritate my eye from time time time. My swelling is roughly the size of a quarter, is tender and feels numb, maybe due to injured nerve or perhaps that's all I have.

Like you I am concerned about how long it is taking to heal, but I took a beating. I kind of think it may just be nerve damage since I do not have the droopy eye or other symptoms of a fractured or broken cheek. but first thing today, I am going to do what I should have done two months ago and get an X-ray. If they're going to re-break anything, I will just deal with the numbness. I am no doctor, but I do realize the concerns of not wanting to go into the whole issue with how you got it, and I sympathize. But a simple X-ray will put your mind at peace and you don't have to tell them anything you don't want to other than the symptoms. Don't let them try to force you to talk about anything you don't want to. It will go on a permanent record and if they feel you may be in danger even if you are not, they can take it upon themselves to take action in your life without your consent. So if all is well with how it occurred, I suggest keeping it general and sticking to the symptoms. Tell them you took a fall or something else if that may be a concern to you.

Don't get me wrong in any way. If you are in an abusive relationship, it usually doesn't really ever get any better; in fact, it usually gets worse. Nobody should lay hands on another. Period. We're not 12 year olds playing in a playground anymore. If you need to hurt or destroy someone, do what I do and destroy with your brain and logic. There is a very limited time to file charges in a domestic abuse case, especially when you do not go to the doctor right away. I want to say two years, but it may be as little as two months (for some reason I think it is the latter). So take care of yourself first and maybe try to suggest anger management and even go together as a compromise if that is your case.

It's no fun having your face beat on – trust me, I know. I took at least twenty or better serious blows, but the guy just couldn't knock me out. I kind of wish he had, in hindsight. I also kind of wish I didn't just curl up and take it and maybe responded. I will try to be more on guard and prepared next time. The thing is, I am not a fighter and it is not even anything that occupies my mind at anytime, but after my experience I have to be ready to defend myself and believe me (he's already tried to approach me again and get me in a fighting stance), and it's just not me. I carry a knife at the very least now. I just refuse to be treated like that anymore or for anyone.

I feel for you and know what you are suffering, though. Take my advice and do like I plan to do today and go get a simple X-ray. The peace of mind will feel all the better. If I think about it, I will come back and post the outcome of my visit with the diagnosis. Peace and love to you and God bless.

By anon950155 — On May 08, 2014

I was punched in a fight and my cheek bone is now broken. It's stopping me from eating as the bottom of the jaw hinge is now hitting the broken bone when I open my mouth and will not go any further. I have now got to go into hospital to have facial reconstruction, just like it says above with a plate and screws which, once the bone has fused in the correct place, will be removed.

By anon339410 — On Jun 23, 2013

I fell down into my rockery, hitting the stones with my arms, the sides of my body and my legs, but the main impact was when I connected my cheek bone with the sharp edge of one of the rockery stones. It feels swollen, bruised and is sore to touch. Do you think it may be broken?

By anon330560 — On Apr 17, 2013

I got kicked in my cheek. It throbbed at first and it also knocks me sick when I talk or smile. And it hurts like hell when I touch it.

I did this about a week ago and no sign of bruising has shown, although it is starting to swell. Should I seek further medical advice or would you think it could be badly bruised inside?

By anon285159 — On Aug 14, 2012

I actually fell up my stairs and hit my face, especially my left cheek on the corner of the door. I immediately saw stars and about five minutes later had a severe headache. It lasted for about a half an hour. I'm swollen and starting to bruise. Guess I should go to the doctor?

By anon262973 — On Apr 22, 2012

I have a fractured cheekbone now. Guess you could say I ran into my angry boyfriend's fist. Hurts like hell. I didn't go to the hospital, but the medic said it was for sure fractured. I'm wondering how long it will hurt. It's been like this since end of January. Anyone know how long it will take to heal?

By anon257180 — On Mar 25, 2012

I have broken my cheek/orbital bone. I caught a nasty elbow in basketball practice. I heard ringing, and saw stars, then I finished practice and went home.

I saw a doctor about three days later and he said it was broken and required surgery. Three titanium plates later, I'm good as new.

By Emilski — On Aug 22, 2011

What exactly is the treatment for a broken cheekbone? It is in a really poor spot to be able to do a lot with it. It isn't like you could put some type of cast on the surface of someone's face.

You would have to have some way to keep the bones from moving. I know that for broken jaws, they wire your mouth shut so that you can't move it. Do they do the same thing for a cheek bone fracture? I'm sure it could depend on the severity of the break, too. I bet in some cases, they would have to do surgery to repair the bone if it was out of place.

Once they do the final treatment, how long does it take for the bone to heal? How does it compare to something like a broken arm or leg? Can you usually tell later that the bone had been broken at some point?

By matthewc23 — On Aug 21, 2011

I'm sure punching could cause a broken cheekbone, but I know that a cow can. I had a friend that whose family lived on a farm. One day he was working with the cows, and one of them kicked while he was standing behind it. The kick ended up breaking his cheekbone and doing some damage to the eye socket.

He was knocked unconscious, but luckily someone else was around to help him. The break was closed, so he was lucky for that. I never got to see what he looked like at the time it happened, but afterwards, the swelling was very severe. His face was bruised for several weeks, and he had a lot of pain. The broken eye socket also caused a lot of the blood vessels in his eye to burst, so it was dark red for a couple of weeks, as well.

Like anyone who works on a farm can tell you, standing directly behind a cow is usually a bad idea just in case something like this happens. If he would have been paying more attention, he could have avoided the whole accident.

By stl156 — On Aug 21, 2011

@JimmyT - I don't watch a ton of boxing, but I have seen quite a few matches. As far I know, there aren't that many cheekbone fractures. The most common bones that get broken are the jaw bones and the nose.

To be honest, I'm not sure what constitutes the cheekbone. I assume there is a difference between the cheek and the jaw bones. I would consider the cheekbones to be the ones around the eyes and in front of the ears. I don't have any idea what the real names would be.

Almost every boxer ends a match with swelling around the eyes, but I think the gloves and strength of the bone help prevent breaks. Most times when a boxer is hit, he will turn away from the punch which can lessen the blow, too.

By JimmyT — On Aug 20, 2011

Having a broken cheek bone sounds horrible. Fortunately, I doubt it is a very common injury unless you are punched in some sort of fight.

When I was reading this, I was wondering about boxers and whether they commonly have broken cheekbones. I don't watch a lot of boxing, so I'm not very familiar with the injuries that people sustain.

I'm wondering how padded the gloves are and if that might be able to take away enough of the blow to stop someone from getting a fractured cheek bone. Is there anything boxers do when they are training or during a match that helps prevent them from having their jaws or cheeks broken?

Alex Tree

Alex Tree

Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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